VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2001 ( John Paul II spent his 81st birthday today tackling a full schedule of appointments.

The Holy Father prefers to celebrate his saint´s day, Nov. 4, the feast of St. Charles. The only external sign of the Pope´s birthday was the Holy See´s white and yellow flag, flying atop Vatican buildings.

Dinner was the time to celebrate and rest in the company of close collaborators, who dined with John Paul II in his private apartment in the Apostolic Palace.

The Pope began the day in prayer and then celebrated Mass in private at 7 a.m.

The morning was full of appointments. He received nine ambassadors -- from Nepal, Tunisia, Estonia, Zambia, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, South Africa and Gambia -- who presented their credentials. During the meeting, he made an urgent appeal for peace in the Middle East, which saw new violence.

The Holy Father then met with six bishops from Pakistan, who are in Rome for their quinquennial "ad limina" visit.

The morning ended with an audience attended by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. The Pope reminded the members of their enormous responsibilities and the need to engage in ethical discernment on the direction of the process of globalization.

In the afternoon, the Holy Father had his weekly audience with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He met with Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the congregation.